BUTTE — Tom LeProwse, an iconic and enduring figure in Montana sports history who represented Butte High as a captain in the first-ever Montana East-West Shrine game and then moved to Bozeman where he became a legendary coach, especially in wrestling, passed away on Friday. He was 94.
News of LeProwse' death was first reported by ButteSports.com.
LeProwse, whose surname will forever be tied to Treasure State wrestling at the annual LeProwse Invite Tournament in Bozeman, was actively involved in the sport well into his 90s.
"I'll continue this as far as God will let me," a then 91-year-old LeProwse told MontanaSports.com in a 2019 interview. "I get up everyday and I'm really happy about it."
A Butte native, LeProwse was a multi-sport star for the Bulldogs, though football was his favorite.
He was a West Team captain in the inaugural Montana Shrine Game on August 24, 1947, where he made the game's first tackle. He then headed to Montana State University where he played for coach Clyde Carpenter.
After his playing days at MSU were over, he remained in Bozeman where he worked as a physical education teacher while coaching everything from football to basketball to track.
He also began swimming, gymnastics and wrestling programs in Bozeman. In wrestling, he found great success with the players he recruited, often farm kids from the Gallatin area. He started as a coach and eventually became a wrestling official, where he began hosting an annual tournament over 60 years ago.
Over the years, that tournament swelled from a dual to a sprawling open invite that attracts hundreds of wrestlers from all classes from across the state.
He began slowing down a bit when he turned 90. But even then he was grateful for the life he had lived.
“Things are slowing down a little bit, but you know, they didn’t slow down until I turned 90," LeProwse said in that 2019 interview. "They seem to be slowing down a little more than what they were, but I just judge myself on how well I feel and what my capabilities are. I’ve just been so fortunate to have such a great life.”